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Prof Maluleke Congratulates and Introduces New Uj VC



Prof Maluleke Congratulates and Introduces New Uj VC

Tshwane University of Technology President, Tinyiko Maluleke paid tribute to his new Vice Chancellor, Prof Letlhokwa George Mpedi, at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). New Uj VC

Prof Maluleke paid tribute to him by saying:

Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi is armed with Oxford and Harvard qualifications, a doctorate in law from UJ, awards and accolades from prestigious institutions around the world. Prof Letlhokwa George Mpedi has published 38 peer-reviewed articles, eight (co)authored books, more than 60 chapters in peer-reviewed books, and delivered up to 57 specialist keynote addresses. He has also written more than a dozen opinion pieces.

New Uj VC

Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice-Chancellor and Principal with Prof Letlhokwa George Mpedi, the newly appointed VC at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)

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Several noisy, untidy-looking kids would have met the alien near Hammanskraal in 1991. Not one of them looked like a future legal eagle, let alone a future vice-chancellor. In the North-West, Utsane High School serves farm workers’ children from Syferskuil, a village within Bojanala District Municipality. The alien would have noticed that it was a rural school for farm workers.  

There would have been no escaping the attention of our visiting alien Letlhokwa George Mpedi, a 16-year-old starry-eyed, stocky, somewhat pugnacious and somewhat argumentative student at Utsane High School.

A good mentee-mentor relationship had been formed between Letlhokwa and one of the teachers, Stephens Ramafoko, who also served as his private Kyokushin karate instructor. During the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster The Karate Kid, Stephens Ramafoko represented Mr Han to Letlhokwa George Mpedi. 

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To this day, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi, newly appointed vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), attributes Ramafoko’s discipline, work ethic, and understanding of strategy and tactics, along with his love of law, to his father. During that time, Letlhokwa was unaware that Ramafoko was enrolled part-time for law school, later becoming a successful attorney.  

Mpedi Snr is proud of his accomplishments

At the University of Johannesburg, Letlhokwa George Mpedi wore the hallowed mantle of vice-chancellor and principal. Only Ntante Daniel Pule Mpedi was present.

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It is likely that Mpedi Snr travelled to the iconic Botswanan villages of Serowe, Palapye and Pilikwe before the formal occasion. A great-grandparent’s grave is located there. It is believed that the spirits of his BaNgwato ancestors hover over the rolling blue hills of those villages. A ritual ceremony, complete with libations, would have been performed by Mpedi Snr to mark the milestone achieved by his son. 

On The dusty streets of Syferskuil, where Letlhokwa George Mpedi grew up, would explode with celebrations, songs, and dancing upon Ntate Daniel Mpedi’s return from ancestral Botswana.

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When his son was appointed vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Johannesburg, Daniel Mpedi’s face would be adorned with a perpetual smile. He would have taken his seat at the University of Johannesburg’s Sanlam Auditorium on 10 March 2023 wearing one of his fancy three-piece suites, along with his wife, Josephine Hambile Mpedi.  

Mpedi Snr, however, will not be able to attend this historic event. In Heidelberg, Daniel Mpedi, a twenty-something earthmoving equipment operator in a construction company, lost his life in an occupational accident four decades ago. The youngest two children, Mishack and Mokgadi, were only toddlers when the first two, Lindiwe and Lempone, were teenagers.  

‘Dreams from my father’ 

As Mpedi Snr and as Letlhokwa Mpedi, neither are Barack Hussein Obama. Similarly, Mpedi Snr wanted a good life for his son, as described in Obama Snr’s autobiography Dreams from My Father. All those who listened to him knew that he dreamed of his son becoming a lawyer one day. 

It was natural for young Letlhokwa to feel lost and disconnected after his father died. As a result, his siblings and he were forced to reach a level of maturity before their chronological ages. During his childhood, Letlhokwa studied law to gain a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the death of his father.

After Mpedi Snr’s death, Letlhokwa’s upbringing combined with his haunting dream created in him an even greater appetite for studying law. The social (security) law was of particular interest to him as a means of establishing social justice. The family of Mpedi Snr became eligible for a monthly grant amounting to R222.22 from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund as a result of Mpedi Snr’s death during his employment.  

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Of In any case, R222.22 was insufficient to meet the needs of a family of six – five children plus their mother.  The money had to be multiplied in another way for Josephine Hambile Mpedi. Thus, she “conscripted” her children to run a multifaceted mobile spaza shop including socks, vegetables, curtains, and self-made and remade clothes. It is no wonder Letlhokwa is a needlework virtuoso who is also extremely skilled at knitting and cooks delicious dishes.  New Uj VC

On Initially, Letlhokwa’s village, Syferskuil, was meant, as were other villages scattered throughout the region between Hammanskraal, Modimolle, and Mokopane, to serve as a reservoir for cheap black labour as envisioned by Hendrik Verwoerd.

But from high school all the way to university, Letlhokwa had special people who mentored, motivated and supported him: Professor Esther van Kerken (from the erstwhile Vista University), Professor Marius Olivier (former UJ professor and his LLD supervisor), Professor Evance Kalula (retired law professor from UCT), Professor Manfred Weiss (retired professor from JW Goethe University, Germany), the late professors Edwin Kaseke and Guy Mhone (from Wits University), Professor Dawie de Villiers (retired law professor from UJ), and Professor Jean Sonnekus (emeritus professor of law from UJ), to mention but a few. New Uj VC

Of all Letlhokwa’s mentors, Josephine Hambile Mpedi, née Malope, was the fiercest and most formidable. Letlhokwa’s destiny to become a lawyer has been co-owned by Mrs Mpedi since the day Mpedi Snr expressed his wish for his son to become one. To protect and nurture that dream, she was a strict and hard-to-please disciplinarian. Her children were infused with the value of education from a very young age. 

Letlhokwa’s wife and co-partner, Bessy Mpedi (née Kgobe), met him in this very place. During their studies at Vista University at Mamelodi Campus, they were both in the library. 

An internationally acclaimed scholar leader 

Letlhokwa George Mpedi holds Oxford and Harvard qualifications, a doctorate in law from UJ, as well as awards and accolades from respected institutions around the world. Five doctoral students are currently under his supervision.  

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As a peer-reviewed author of 38 articles, eight books (co-authored), more than 60 chapters in peer-reviewed books, 57 specialist keynote addresses, and more than 12 opinion pieces, Mpedi has published over 140 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Among his peers, he is highly respected as a researcher.  

This raises the question about why Mpedi chose to become vice-chancellor and principal, of all the other jobs that he could have held. In the midst of great turmoil in higher education and the country in general, this is a remarkable achievement.  New Uj VC

As he responded to that question, “If those of us who possess experience, qualifications, and temperament to get the job done don’t apply, we have no right to complain when lesser capable characters take on these jobs and screw them up ”. 

In his role as vice-chancellor and principal, Mpedi has all the knowledge and experience he needs to excel. He has served as vice-dean, executive dean, and deputy vice-chancellor: academic. 

 I I bet that no four people inside that hall would be prouder than Letlhokwa George Mpedi’s mother, Josephine Hambile Mpedi, his partner Bessy Mpedi, his son, Daniel Thulaganyo Mpedi, and his only surviving sibling, Mishack, on 10 March when he is formally installed as vice-chancellor and principal.    New Uj VC

My mind is certain that the Karate Kid from Syferskuil, all the way from Serowe, Palapye, and Pilikwe villages in the sky, along with his late father, three late sisters, and all of his BaNgwato ancestors, will smile down upon him.

His father’s dream has been far exceeded by Professor Mpedi. In his role as a mentor, he now has to help fulfill the dreams of South African young people. 

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